by William Shakespeare.
Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 30 November 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm no evening performance 13 Nov Mat Sat 2.45pm 13 Nov 3pm 28 Nov 1pm.
Audio-described 22 Nov, 23 Nov 2.45pm.
Runs 2hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 November.
Clear and commanding performance and production.
It takes a moment’s adjustment. Angus Jackson’s production, and more specifically Robert Innes Hopkins’ set, with its huge rising beams and three-pattern floor covering suggesting the division of Lear’s Britain into three separate kingdoms, plus the deliberate speech and manner of Frank Langella’s (very British sounding) Lear have a period feel, suggestive of a 1950s production.
But this is a production which takes a fresh way through the action, with slight emendations and some omissions from the usual script, adding an opening. “The king is coming”.
Stiff-jointed and stooping at the shoulders, Langella’s Lear has a firm, commanding voice. He’s used to peremptory authority; a mere gesture is enough to move action, and he fidgets on his throne while waiting for commands to be fulfilled.
There are only occasional suggestions of cracks in that powerful voice, until kingship falls from him. The moment he realises both his older daughters have disowned him Lear’s language suggests a sweep of anger. Yet here, “O reason not the need” successfully becomes a quiet plea.
It’s the gods he’s combatting, “A man more sinned against than sinning” becoming a challenge made emphatic with jabbed fingers. And on this cosmic scale, it’s while he’s challenging the cataracts and hurricanoes that stage management replace the tripartite kingdom with a new ground, the hollowed-out shape of England. It’s here that, in what can be seen as a tragic version of the winter and rough weather Arden court of As You Like It’s Duke Senior, Lear and those exiled by or with him form their new outcast society.
The loyal daughter Cordelia is as tough as her dad, if more given to insight. Reunited, like Rosalind with Senior, her love is practical and mature just as she’d shown herself determined from the start, her anxious asides cut, and her confidence seen as Isabel Laughland positions herself to doorstep Goneril and Regan with her denunciation.
Both Catherine McCormack and Lauren O’Neil’s characters are old enough to be waiting for their inheritance, while Tim Treloar’s Cornwall is a convincing bully, menacing in his square-on proximity as in his brief smiles.
Gloucester: Denis Conway,
Kent: Steven Pacey.
Edmund: Max Bennett.
King Lear: Frank Langella.
Goneril: Catherine McCormack.
Regan: Lauren O’Neil.
Cordelia: Isabella Laughland.
Cornwall: Tim Treloar.
Burgundy/Captain/Guard: William Reay.
France/Knight/Guard: Rob Heaps.
Edgar: Sebastian Armesto.
Oswald: Tom Mothersdale.
Fool: Harry Melling.
Albany: Chu Omambala.
French Commander/Servant: Michael Sheldon.
Servant/Herald/Messenger: Parth Thakerar.
Doctor: Alan Vickery.
Director: Angus Jackson.
Designer: Robert Innes Hopkins.
Lighting: Peter Mumford.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Composer: Isobel Waller-Bridge.
Voice coach: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Anthony Lau.